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CN is Canada's largest railway, in terms of both revenue and the physical size of its rail network, and is Canada's only transcontinental railway company, spanning Canada from the Atlantic coast in Nova Scotia to the Pacific coast in British Columbia.Following CN's purchase of Illinois Central (IC) in 1998, and a number of smaller US railways, it also has extensive trackage in the central United States along the Mississippi River valley from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.The Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 and allied involvement in the Russian Revolution seemed to validate the continuing process.The need for a viable rail system was paramount in a time of civil unrest and foreign military intervention.In the early 20th century, many governments were taking a more interventionist role in the economy, foreshadowing the influence of economists like John Maynard Keynes.This political trend, combined with broader geo-political events, made nationalization an appealing choice for Canada.

Finally, the bankrupt GTR itself was placed under the care of a federal government "Board of Management" on May 21, 1920, while GTR management and shareholders opposed to nationalization took legal action.After several years of arbitration, the GTR was absorbed into CNR on January 30, 1923.In subsequent years, several smaller independent railways would be added to the CNR as they went bankrupt, or it became politically expedient to do so, however the system was more or less finalized following the addition of the GTR.Another Canadian railway, the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (GTPR), encountered financial difficulty on March 7, 1919, when its parent company Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) defaulted on repayment of construction loans to the federal government.The federal government's Department of Railways and Canals took over operation of the GTPR until July 12, 1920, when it too was placed under the CNR.

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